Thursdays in Review

On Thursdays, we read reviews or news stories about art or design and study the language used in them. This week’s article is about Google’s design and UX philosophy.

Here are the first two paragraphs from Design Observer, in italics.

The emblematic simplicity of the Google homepage was a bit of a happy accident. Initially left bare because the cofounders lacked HTML skills, its white space, and minimal links quickly distinguished the search engine from the overwhelming, content-heavy homepages of its competitors. This absence of videos, ads, and graphics (save for the occasional doodle and iconic “I’m Feeling Lucky” button) helped them reach the company’s topmost priority: faster site speed and search results. Marissa Mayer, Google employee number 20 and self-described gatekeeper of the homepage, described it best: “It gives you what you want, when you want it, rather than everything you could ever want, even when you don’t.”

While simplicity had lived at the heart of Google’s design and UX philosophy since day one, the company was growing exponentially. By 2011, the company had made more than 100 acquisitions to expand beyond search: from maps and email to mobile devices and advertising, and showed no signs of slowing down. As Google became more complex, there was a need for a cohesive UX across its disjointed products and services. It wasn’t until co-founder Larry Page ordered a visual refresh of its products that Google began to reconnect to its original design values.


My comments:

In the first paragraph, we begin with the phrase emblematic simplicity. Simplicity is the noun form of simple, and an emblem is a picture or symbol of something. Everyone who has used Google often recognizes their logo, even when it is shown in an abstract style because of this emblematic simplicity. The phrase a bit of a _____ means that something is only a little true; it’s not extreme. And a happy accident is when something good happens by mistake, so the writer is saying that Google’s famous logo design was a little mistake.

Initially, which means in the beginning, the home page was left bare. Left is the past tense of leave, and bare means empty, so leaving something bare means you don’t add anything to it. Google did this because the cofounders lacked HTML skills, which means they didn’t have any HTML skills. Distinguished means that people notice something because it is different from others, and we use overwhelming to describe something that is too difficult or confusing to use. Adding -heavy to a word means it has too much of that thing, so content-heavy means a homepage has too much content. And a competitor is someone who does the same business as you. This writer is saying that Google’s competitors used very content-heavy homepages, so Google’s simple white design was easy to notice.

This absence (which means something is missing) of videos, ads, and graphics helped them reach the company’s topmost priority: faster site speed and search results. The note in parentheses (save for the occasional doodle and iconic “I’m Feeling Lucky” button) uses the phrase save for, which means except. Occasional means something that doesn’t happen often, a doodle is a drawing that you make without planning, and iconic means a symbol that most people know. So, the writer is saying that the Google Doodles (example below) and the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button are the only graphics or extra features on the homepage. The word self-described just means you’re describing yourself, and a gatekeeper is someone who guards or is in control of something. The phrase rather than means instead of.

In the second paragraph, we see the word philosophy, which means a set of ideas about how to do something. We also see the phrase growing exponentially, which means growing very quickly. Next, we see the word acquisitions, which means something that you acquire, get, or buy. To expand means to get bigger, so the writer is saying that Google got bigger by adding more than 100 other features to its site, like maps, email, mobile devices, and advertising. Google was getting more complex, which is the opposite of simple, and its products and services were disjointed, which means not organized or not united in their design. Finally, co-founder Larry Page ordered a visual refresh (which means an updated version) of its products, and Google began to reconnect to its original design values (beliefs about what is important).

There are a lot of words and phrases that are commonly used in art and design that aren’t usually taught in English classes. There are also many words and phrases that have a different meaning in art and design than they do in other situations. A good language coach can help to explain these differences and help you find the best vocabulary to describe your work.


At Artglish, we help artists and designers to describe their work with the best vocabulary and language possible. Every Thursday we study reviews and articles to share useful words and phrases to help you improve your reading and writing skills. If you want to learn more, click here to join The Studio and try some free ways to improve your English, or check out our Lessons page to learn how Artglish can help you succeed.

I’ve chosen 5 words or phrases for you to focus on today. They are in bold. If you don’t know them, look up the meaning, synonyms, antonyms, and other forms of these words. You can find links to Merriam-Webster dictionary sites at the bottom of this page.

To read the original article, written by Connie Birdsall on May 29, 2018, click the link below:
https://designobserver.com/feature/what-we-see-when-we-see-google-design/39808/

Published by

Jessica

I help artists and designers with their English so they can focus on being creative and changing the world.

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